Are you ready to improve what Mother Nature gave you? Do you want to restore your body after having children or losing weight, rock a slimmer, smoother figure, or turn back the years on your facial appearance? If so, now comes the next step—selecting a plastic surgeon. With so many to choose from it is natural to feel a bit overwhelmed, but fortunately it’s easier than you think. Resist the urge to buy into hype and follow a few simple steps that can help you choose a plastic surgeon that’s right for you.

First, remember that there is no substitute for credentials, reputation, and experience when choosing a plastic surgeon. Any licensed physician can say they perform appearance-improving surgery, but there’s one easy way to determine if they are qualified to call themselves a plastic surgeon. Physicians who specialize in plastic surgery have completed a general surgery residency followed by a plastic surgery residency, or an integrated residency that includes both. Some plastic surgeons opt to then complete a fellowship in a subspecialty, such as aesthetic surgery. If you’re uncertain about a surgeon’s credentials and training, ask, then validate. A surgeon who hesitates to answer should throw up the red flag.

Board certification is another way to determine if a plastic surgeon has the training and focus you are seeking. Look for surgeons who are board certified in the correct field of expertise. Keep in mind that only physicians board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery can call legitimately themselves plastic surgeons.

It’s important to note that physicians such as maxillofacial surgeons and otolaryngologists (ENTs) may perform facial cosmetic surgery. Many of these medical specialists have completed a post-residency fellowship focused on plastic, reconstructive, or cosmetic surgery. For example, an ENT can complete a fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Just as you would ask a plastic surgeon about credentials and board certification, ask these physicians as well then verify.

Next, schedule consultations with at least three plastic surgeons so you can compare. Develop a list of questions and bring them to your consultation. You should feel your surgeon has genuinely listened to your goals and concerns and has answered your questions to your satisfaction without making you feel rushed or pressured into making a decision. Note whether or not options and recommendations are provided and compared based on your unique needs, budget, and time available for recovery.

Before you leave, ask to see before and after pictures of actual patients. Also notice the staff and how they treat you. Before and after surgery, you will interact often with them. Lastly, ask for patient references and contact them. These will be people who have agreed to be used as references in accordance with HIPAA guidelines. They can provide insight and opinions that are honest and real, compared to online reviews with unverifiable ratings.

If you still can’t determine which plastic surgeon to choose, keep looking. Go on more consultations. A decision as important as this shouldn’t be rushed.